Teacher Morale Plummets

Walt writes about latest results on teacher satisfaction

The 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher confirms what was expected. I’m referring now to teacher satisfaction, which is the lowest in a quarter of a century. Specifically, only 39 percent of teachers said they were very satisfied, and more than half said they felt under “great stress” several days a week.

These results are not at all surprising in light of the pressure that public school teachers and principals are under to produce quantifiable outcomes.

Comments are worth reading as well:

I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, and all I hear from others in my strata and higher is how they cannot wait to get away from the stupid nonsense that is permeating education today.

We feel powerless. Micromanaged. Distrusted to do our jobs. To hell with actual pedagogy and learning theory. Let’s try this new fad. And punish the non-conformist. Data. Test. Data. Exam. Data. Ugh.

Teacher questions value of AP program

A popular article describes the problem with the AP program:
A warning to college profs from a high school teacher.

Performance on the AP test, while indicating some level of competence, does not necessarily mean one has learned what one would in the equivalent college course…Dartmouth College will no longer give credit for AP because when they tested incoming students who had scored well on the AP Psychology test the vast majority failed what would have been the end-of- course exam in Dartmouth’s introductory psychology class.

After a rebuttal, the author defends his position:
Teacher questions value of AP program

Is it time to reconsider AP Classes?

Update Sept 30, 2019 :

Rejecting AP Courses
Several well-known private schools in the D.C. area are scrapping Advanced Placement classes
AP courses losing favor among more high schools
Will Dropping AP Become a National Trend?


This article and the comments following discusses alternatives to offering AP classes in High School:

“The elite Urban School in San Francisco also chose not to offer AP courses, nor does Riverdale Country Day School in New York. “I think it’s sort of an impoverished view of expecting kids to learn a bunch of stuff and parrot it back to you, and that’s the end of it,” said Dominic Rudolph, Head of School at Riverdale Country in a talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “These kids have to be better critical thinkers, they have to be better communicators,” he added. He doesn’t think passing the AP test necessarily gives them those skills.”

Are AP classes worth the effort?

We’ve noticed some of the private schools dropping AP courses and even some public schools. They say they are a real cause of stress for the kids. And at some public schools, we were hearing that there was de facto tracking happening where advanced students were ending up on a track that put them mostly in AP classes and lower level students on a track of mostly remedial classes. There were two tracks and limited options for average students.

Colleges don’t always accept the courses for college credit, many students end up repeating the course in college anyway, and you can run the risk of memorizing material for a test versus delving into a subject and exploring it in an enriching way. Sometimes an honors course at a high school is actually a better option for rigorous and engaging learning.

Frankly, many high-achieving high school students are really stressed out. They have a lot to do between extracurricular activities and homework and also trying to get the sleep they need. They need to be prepared for what an AP course involves. The extra tests, extra homework, on top of an already demanding schedule, can be brutal. And a very low grade on your transcript from an AP course may hurt you more in the long run than not taking an AP in that subject at all.

Read this article not for the content for the comments that follow!

Advice from a Dean of Admissions on Selecting High School Courses

How To Commit Education Suicide

Walt Gardner writes on the state of High School Education and the misguided priorities of reformers:

No matter how compelling the evidence to the contrary, reformers persist in the fiction that a college-preparatory curriculum is the best way to prepare students for the future. By refusing to acknowledge reality, they are doing a terrible disservice to countless students whose talents and interests lie elsewhere. In the process, they’re aiding and abetting educational suicide.

The truth is that thousands of graduates from four-year colleges and universities are not only unemployed but also likely unemployable. As Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal wrote in an acerbic essay: “Through exertions that – let’s be honest – were probably less than heroic, most of you have spent the last few years getting inflated grades in useless subjects in order to obtain a debased degree” (“Stephens: To the Class of 2012,” The Wall Street Journal, May 7).

We can continue in the delusion that college is for everyone and that without a four-year degree students have a bleak future. But we better be ready to accept the consequences. Not only have too many students majored in subjects of no importance to employers, but they have also saddled themselves with debt that cannot be discharged even through personal bankruptcy. That’s what I call committing educational suicide.

Alternatives to attending a University and acquiring a big debt for the privilege

Mark Cuban writes about “The coming meltdown in college education

…Right now there is a never ending supply of buyers. Students who can’t get jobs or who think that by going to college they enhance their chances to get a job. Its the collegiate equivalent of flipping houses. You borrow as much money as you can for the best school you can get into and afford and then you “flip” that education for the great job you are going to get when you graduate.

Except those great jobs aren’t always there. I don’t think any college kid took on tens of thousands of dollars in debt with the expectation they would get a job working for minimum wage against tips.

At some point potential students will realize that they can’t flip their student loans for a job in 4 years. In fact they will realize that college may be the option for fun and entertainment, but not for education. Prices for traditional higher education will skyrocket so high over the next several years that potential students will start to make their way to non accredited institutions.

While colleges and universities are building new buildings for the english , social sciences and business schools, new high end, un-accredited  , BRANDED schools are popping up that will offer better educations for far, far less and create better job opportunities.

As an employer I want the best prepared and qualified employees. I could care less if the source of their education was accredited by a bunch of old men and women who think they know what is best for the world. I want people who can do the job. I want the best and brightest. Not a piece of paper.

The competition from new forms of education is starting to appear. Particularly in the tech world. Online and physical classrooms are popping up everywhere. They respond to needs in the market. THey work with local businesses to tailor the education to corporate needs. In essence assuring those who excel that they will get a job. All for far far less money than traditional schools.

The number of people being prepared for the work world in these educational environments is exploding.

It’s just a matter o time until we see the same meltdown in traditional college education. Like the real estate industry, prices will rise until the market revolts. Then it will be too late. STudents will stop taking out the loans traditional Universities expect them to. And when they do tuition will come down. And when prices come down Universities will have to cut costs beyond what they are able to. They will have so many legacy costs, from tenured professors to construction projects to research they will be saddled with legacy costs and debt in much the same way the newspaper industry was. Which will all lead to a de-levering and a de-stabilization of the University system as we know it.

And it can’t happen fast enough.

…As far as the purpose of college, I am a huge believer that you go to college to learn how to learn. However, if that gaol is subverted because traditional universities, public and private, charge so much to make that happen, I believe that system will collapse and there will be better alternatives created.

Online video classrooms with lively discussions dont need a traditional campus to teach kids how to learn. Discussion groups built around Khan Academy like classes dont require a traditional campus to teach kids how to learn. I’ve seen better discussions and interactions on twitter than in some of the traditional classrooms I have visited. The opportunities for online interactive video classrooms is going to grow quickly and will be far more cost effective than traditional universities.

Paul Krugman writes on a similar subject titled Wasting Our Minds

even if students do manage, somehow, to “get the education,” which they do all too often by incurring a lot of debt, they’ll be graduating into an economy that doesn’t seem to want them.

Why Schools Don’t Teach Innovation

From Walt Gardner’s article:

Tony Wagner argues that young people in this country become innovators in spite of their schools – not because of them.”

“…most schools are designed and operated to penalize failure. Yet unless students are allowed to fail, they can’t learn. ”

“…Although grades are important, they pale beside “play, passion and purpose.”

“…Consider the widespread use of standardized tests to determine the education quality of schools. They are the wrong instrument to determine if the curriculum and instruction are developing innovative thinkers. Instead of identifying innovators, they suppress them. Reformers can’t have it both ways. If they want schools to develop the next Steve Jobs or J.J. Rowling, they have to let go of their obsession with test scores as indispensable evidence of quality education. “

Why merit pay for teachers is wrong

Daniel Pink writes why he thinks merit pay for teachers is wrong.

Here is what he has to say:

1. Some rewards backfire. Fifty years of social science tells us that “if-then” rewards – that is, “If you do this, then you get that” – are great for simple, routine tasks and not so great for complicated, creative tasks. Since teaching is creative and complex rather than simple and algorithmic, tying teacher pay to student performance (especially on standardized tests) flies in the face of the broad evidence.

2. Contingent pay for teachers just isn’t effective. What’s more, the specific evidence – a cluster of recent studies that have examined “if-then” pay schemes in schools – has shown them to be failures. See, for instance,this piece of research by Vanderbilt University or this one by Harvard’s Roland Fryer or this study by Rand that prompted the New York City public schools to abandon its pay-for-performance plan.

3. Money is still important. The fact that “if-then” motivators often go awry doesn’t mean that rewards in general or money in particular are bad. Not at all. The research shows that money matters. It just matters in a slightly different way than we suspect. Paying people unfairly — say, when Jane makes less than June for the same work — is extremely demotivating. And, of course, low salaries can deter some people from pursuing certain professions. Therefore, the best use of money as a motivator, at least for complex work, is to compensate people fairly and to try to take the issue of money off the table.  That means paying healthy base salaries – and in the private sector, offering some non-gameable variable pay such as profit-sharing.

4. There’s a simpler solution. My own solution for the teacher pay issue, which I’ve voiced many times both in writing and in speeches, is to strike a bargain: Raise the base pay of teachers – and make it easier to get rid of underperforming teachers. Not only is this approach more consistent with the evidence, it’s easier to implement and doesn’t require a new bureaucracy to administer. (To her credit, Michelle Rhee launched some efforts to move in this direction.)

5. We’ve got the wrong diagnosis. The notion that the central problem in American education is lack of teacher motivation is ludicrous. The vast majority of teachers in this country are some of the most hard-working, dedicated people you’ll ever meet – folks who work their butts off in difficult conditions for little recognition. Pay for performance is a weak prescription in part because it’s based on a faulty diagnosis.

6. What really ails us. The real problems, at least in my opinion, are twofold. First, the American education system itself, which is based on 19th century principles and structures, is woefully antiquated. Second, we’re ignoring the issue of poverty and the overwhelming evidence that, absent comprehensive and expensive interventions, socioeconomic status is what drives much of educational attainment and performance. (This is one thing I actually liked about No Child Left Behind. It held someone’s feet to the fire for schools that were criminally negligent in serving low-income kids.)

7. Teaching isn’t investment banking. I find it peculiar that we single out teachers for “if-then” pay when we wouldn’t consider it for other public servants. Should we pay police officers based on how many tickets they write or whether the crime rate in their district drops? How about compensating soldiers based on whether our borders have been attacked or how many of their colleagues have been injured or killed? Would legislators, who are behind much of the bonuses-for-test-scores push, ever agree to hinge their own pay on whether budget deficits rose or fell?

8. Turn down the heat, turn up the light. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that the people on both sides of this issue are men and women with good intentions. Nearly everyone I’ve encountered is trying to do the right thing. Reasonable people can disagree about weighty matters. And most people are reasonable. The trouble is that much of our education policy — from how we finance it down to how we schedule buses — seems designed more for the convenience of adults than for the education of children. If we reckon with that unpleasant truth and have an honest conversation that places our kids at the center of our efforts, we can make a lot of progress.